Within two days of taking oath, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday fulfilled his key poll promise on water supply. He announced that from January 1, every household with a legal piped water supply connection and a functional water meter would get 700 litres of water daily.
For the first three months, the subsidy burden would be Rs 40 crore.
The populist decision came with a bitter pill of a 10 per cent water tariff hike for all households which consume more than 20 kilolitres a month (or about 670 litres a day).
Kejriwal, who is down with fever and on a drip, tweeted that it was the duty of any responsible government to provide “lifeline water”.
The Congress was quick to add that the announcement would not bring water to 50 per cent of the 1.5 crore Delhiites, who do not have provisions for piped water supply.
“The announcement will not apply to people in slums and unauthorised colonies who do not have legal pipe water connections with meters. Does the AAP have an answer for them?” said a Delhi Congress leader.
According to the Kejriwal government’s proposal, all households which consume up to 20 kilolitres a month will not be billed, at least for the next three months.
“Such households’ water bill will be borne by the government,” said a Vijay Kumar, CEO of Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
Kejriwal chaired an hour-long meeting of DJB officials at his Kaushambi residence in Ghaziabad. The announcement was made by a DJB officer later. “Any household which consumes even one litre more than 20 kilolitres a month will have to pay for the entire consumption in the month,” the officer said.
The chief minister tweeted that it was being wrongly said that the government’s decision was for three months. He added that the annual subsidy burden for fulfilling the promise would be Rs 160 crore.
Defending the decision, Kejriwal said: “We may debate the quantum but can we argue against the principle that the government was duty-bound to go give water to its citizens?”
A source in the DJB said the announcement may take some time before being formalised. “During the meeting, the board members asked from which head the subsidy would be met. Since there was no head available, the file will now be sent to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who will send it to the Home Ministry for approval,” the officer said.
After approval, a bill should be brought in the Assembly to give legal sanctity to the proposal, said the officer.